The Amazon rainforest fires in South America have sparked intense debate on the way the world approaches the concept of development. The Amazon rainforest covers 5,500,000 km² and produces roughly 20% of the Earth’s oxygen, which is why they call it “the lungs of the Earth”.
The Amazon rainforest fires are a result of illegal forest clearing to make more farms. The land clearing reduces the amount and availability of water, heats up the soil and causes intense droughts. In turn, the fires spread more easily. Satellite images showed that at one point since the fires started, there were 9507 fires raging. According to National Geographic, The Amazon has already lost around 17% over the past 50 years.
In 2019, there have been 76% more fires than there were during the same period last year. These fires release large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO₂) into the atmosphere and to put it into perspective:
“When just 0.2% of the Amazon burned in 2016, it released 30 million tons of CO₂ – that’s almost as much as Denmark emitted in 2018.”
CO₂ is a “greenhouse gas” that contributes to global warming and climate change – the same gas that is released by thermal power stations that rely on fossil fuels such as coal and gas.
Renewables activity in Australia unprecedented
In Australia, the renewable energy sector is experiencing unprecedented activity. This country is lucky in that it has a vast landmass, which would not endanger ecosystems like the Amazon, primarily due to the fact that much of the interior is barren.
According to the Clean Energy Council, there are currently 103 projects that are in construction (or due to start construction soon) in Australia. This is based on projects that have reached financial close and are not yet commissioned.
These projects will deliver over $27 billion in investment, 17,747 MW of new renewable energy capacity and create 16,656 direct jobs. Moreover, renewable energy generation costs have dropped to par with traditional fossil fuel-generated energy.
What does this mean for us?
The destruction of the “lungs of the Earth” and other forests is troubling, to say the least. We’re losing our line of defence against carbon dioxide emissions and global warming at an alarming rate. And we’re already feeling its effects, such as in our recent prolonged droughts and population declines in certain native animal species.
That said, it’s not completely hopeless. Part of the solution, aside from preventing forest fires, is to transition from fossil fuel-centric power generation –which we also get from burning old trees, to more renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines.
Luckily, Australia’s renewable energy sector is moving forward as it becomes more attractive to energy consumers. However, there are still certain barriers like cost, lack of information on its benefits, and a dearth of resources that prevent Australians, and so many others all over the world, from adapting now, which we hope that our leaders can help address. And soon.